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Ash Borer - "Bloodlands" (Digital EP)

Ash Borer - "Bloodlands" Digital EP cover image

"Bloodlands" track listing:

1. Oblivion's Spring (15:02)
2. Dirge/Purgation (19:37)

Reviewed by on March 21, 2013

"Ash Borer push themselves for the third time, and it pays off with their best material to date."

The emergence of Ash Borer as a top draw for USBM has come gradually, starting with their 2011 self-titled debut and expanding with last year’s “Cold of Ages.” The band plays cold, lengthy black metal that uses moody synths as a profound ripple on the music. Each album has seen this ripple gets further and further from the conventional, and their latest 12’’ “Bloodlands” is not immune to this stance. Ash Borer pushes themselves for the third time, and it pays off with their best material to date.

“Cold of Ages” was a tough sell with the first few listens, as the band seemed to be settling in to maximizing the ambient/raw black metal partnership. “Bloodlands” isn’t much easier, though it’s closer in length to the debut than their second record. There’s still denseness to pull through, though the incorporation of synth-driven ambience is much crisper. Confidence oozes out of these two songs, which were recorded live in the studio, resulting in a stripped-down presence.

Ash Borer exceeds in warming up to the hiss-filled, soulless black metal, instead of throwing it out with the form of a drunk ballerina. “Dirge/Purgation” is one of the longest songs the band has ever composed, and spends a third of that on a melodic intro that doesn’t shrink away from its understated roots. Having a chunk of space dedicated to set up may be dangerous in the hands of lesser musicians, but these guys don’t display any hesitation in accomplishing this goal. If there’s a major shift in the band between “Cold of Ages” and “Bloodlands,” it’s the taunt atmospheric touches.

Those touches don’t take anything away from the primal side of Ash Borer. The band jams the songs with massive amounts of static-laced majesty. They make a lot out of basic tremolo riffing, that’s for sure. For how unkempt they become, it’s crazy that an instrument like the bass and synth can actually be heard with the guitars and drums going full throttle. The only thing that gets pushed away is the vocals, which get lost in the array of noise.

“Bloodlands” is an accumulation of all the pieces Ash Borer has tinkered with for the past few years. Their stride has been hit, and this erupts in creative flourishes that somehow make 20-minute songs feel like half the length. Who knows where their next full-length will go, but “Bloodlands” is a comforting perspective if they choose to move forward in this direction. In less than two years, Ash Borer has transformed into a commendable black metal act worth giving the highest of accolades to.

Highs: Dripping in stark atmosphere, band has shown progression in a short time, black metal with a purpose, synths add extra layers to the havok

Lows: Vocals are just background fodder for the rest of the instruments

Bottom line: Ash Borer impresses yet again with "Bloodlands," which shows the band futher evolving their moody black metal sound.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)